Monday, January 08, 2007

Upset Saturday

Georgetown 66, #22 Notre Dame 48
This game wasn't so much an upset as a statement game. Notre Dame had surprised a lot of people in working their way into the Top 25, and just as quickly they're back out. Meanwhile, we were all waiting for the true Georgetown team to stand up. This is a team that should be in the running for the Big East title, and for the first time all year they really looked like it. Their defense absolutely shut Notre Dame down. Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert showed flashes of flat-out un-stoppability. He shot 8-for-9 from the field, for 18 points. There is simply no one in the country who can stop Hibbert when he gets into the low post. A huge matchup this weekend at Pitt will determine if Georgetown really can win big games on the road, and really compete at the top of the conference.

Arkansas 88, #8 Alabama 61
Arkansas had struggled lately, so there was no reason at all to expect a performance like this. I didn't watch this game myself, but looking at the numbers it seems more like an Alabama loss than an Arkansas win. The Hogs shot 51% from the field, and forced 6 steals vs. only 4 for the Tide. But Arkansas got outrebounded, only to be saved by atrocious shooting by Bama. They also only forced 13 fouls on Alabama. In other words, Alabama controlled the inside and just couldn't shoot. They just didn't come out to play. It's a good win for Arkansas either way, but you have to really rethink Alabama as a Top 10 team. In fact, the only team from the most recent BP65 that Alabama has beaten has been Xavier. And a 7 point win, at home, over an Atlantic 10 team isn't anyone's idea of a Top 10 resume. Of course, they could easily beat LSU tomorrow and prove all of this wrong.

Virginia Tech 69, #5 Duke 67, OT

I don't want to say that Duke was due for a game like this, because no one expects a team like Virginia Tech to beat Duke. But Duke had a loss coming. They had won a series of close games, and certainly hadn't earned a #5 ranking. I don't want to harp on Duke's offensive aggressiveness, or ballhandling, because that's all been beaten to death by Jay Bilas and everyone else. What I was surprised by, however, was Duke's absolute ineptness at the end of the second half and overtime. No one knew what to do, and everybody just had a look of panic. They need an older player to set the tone at the end of games. DeMarcus Nelson saved them at the end of regulation, and it might have to be him in the future. I wouldn't trust anyone else on that team with a last-second shot.

#17 Oregon 68, #1 UCLA 66
Washington State 77, #7 Arizona 73, OT
USC 91, Oregon State 46
If you thought the Pac-10 was a two team race between UCLA and Arizona, think again. Oregon, USC and Washington State have all emerged as legitimate contenders, in addition to California. The standings are an absolute mess, with a four team tie at 3-1, and California and Oregon back at 2-1. There's a good chance that all six of these teams make the Tournament, but I don't think all of them can win this conference. California and Washington State are good, but neither have the firepower to win every night. Both will be in every game, and can beat anyone on any night, but neither has a real superstar to take over at the end of games. I still see UCLA and Arizona as the class of the conference, but expect it to be close. I wouldn't be too surprised if Oregon or USC steals the 2nd seed in the conference. Of course, both of those teams could also fall flat on their face. USC needs to prove they can win on the road, and Oregon needs to prove that the win over UCLA wasn't the highlight of the season.

#19 LSU 66, #14 UConn 49
I don't see any reason to consider UConn an elite team right now. They have a lot of great young athletes, but they just don't have a go-to scorer, and LSU was able to shut them down. Right now the Huskies have their best win against South Florida. That's right, South Florida. The only two tournament teams they've played have handled them easily. There is time to turn this around in the wide-open Big East, but I don't see why we should expect a turnaround until UConn beats someone.

Syracuse 70, #21 Marquette 58
Speaking of struggling Big East teams, what happened to Marquette? They were just ice cold from the arc, shooting 4-for-21, and just kept going to that dry well too many times. Syracuse plays good defense, but 58 points shouldn't happen. In their last nine games Marquette has been 5-4, with only one game played against a team in this week's BP65. Marquette's next game? At UConn. One of those two teams is going to get a chance to rebound. The loser is going to find itself buried in the Big East standings.

Missouri State 95, Wichita State 87
A huge game for both teams, in a game that neither could afford to lose. For one thing, who ever thought they'd see a 95-87 game in the Missouri Valley? Defense is always good in the Valley, but the shooting was unreal in this game. If Missouri State keeps shooting 11-for-19 from behind the arc, they are going to be unstoppable. With this win, the Bears move back into the upper echelon of the conference, with Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois. Creighton is improving quickly, and could easily win the conference as well. Meanwhile, Wichita State is now 1-3 and buried in 8th place. The Shockers head to Indiana State before a very winnable home game against Evansville. They really need to win both those games, and follow it up with a win over Creighton at home, if they want any chance of winning the regular season crown.

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